Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Inkeepers. B+

After countless horror movies featuring the brainless character making stupid decisions in order to scare the viewer, The Innkeepers starts a new pattern, the bored character eager for excitement, yet possibly still bored once it's found. And it works, in a dry, sardonic sort of way. The main characters are two fairly young workers in an old hotel that's about to close down. Director Ti West makes no attempt to make these people at all impressive, though the girl, played by Sara Paxton, is cutely likable. This is a ghost story that we've seen before, but haven't seen in a while. But more importantly, its methods of horror are so intelligent, the work of real master. This of course would be West, who is still pretty young, but worthy of such praise. No director in years has demonstrated such a mastery-and restraint-in the horror genre. And in a time when the old masters like Craven, Hooper, Carpenter, and Romero are getting old, a new talent in horror is very reassuring for the genre. Horror filmmaking has been abused more than any other, with countless pieces of garbage being produced over the years. It's almost stopped being a genre and become a zone for fraud. It is perhaps the easiest genre to do poorly, and one of the hardest to get right. West doesn't just get horror, but he's come up with new ways to make it a better genre. He subtly uses old tricks and in the process introduces new ones. In House of the Devil (2009), there's an old lady upstairs in a big old house, which of course recalls Psycho. Yet when it turns out she is the baby the babysitter thought she would be watching, West is suddenly on fresh ground. The same could be said with what goes on in The Innkeepers. Watch how he works out his characters, allows plenty of room for comedy (the movie isn't really a comedy, rather the people in it are funny), and incorporates pieces of horror not intended to scare the viewer. That's why the final twenty minutes are so surprising because the movie really does start to scare us. West had no real reason to try to frighten the viewer early on. The scares all depended on how the narrative unfolds. I think the best thing about is that West isn't actually trying to scare the viewer most of the time, and yet because it's a horror movie we expect to be scared. Thus, it can be surprising when we find ourselves quite calm, and even more so when, in a snap, our heart starts to beat. 

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